Self-Healing Materials - Microencapsulated or Microvascular

A fascinating video describing the self-healing materials under development in the lab of Nancy Sottos, Ph.D., professor of engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has surfaced.


(Self-Healing Materials - Microencapsulated or Microvascular)

Inspired by human skin, the plastics repair themselves by "bleeding" healing agents when they are cut or scratched. This research offers the promise of cell phones, laptops, cars, and other products with self-repairing, longer-lasting surfaces.

Microencapsulated Systems
Autonomic healing is accomplished by incorporating a microencapsulated healing agent and a catalytic chemical trigger within an epoxy matrix. An approaching crack ruptures embedded microcapsules, releasing healing agent into the crack plane through capillary action.
Polymerization of the healing agent is triggered by contact with the embedded catalyst, bonding the crack faces. The damage-induced triggering mechanism provides site-specific autonomic control of repair. An additional unique feature of our healing concept is the utilization of living polymerization (that is, having unterminated chain-ends) catalysts, thus enabling multiple healing events. Our fracture experiments yield more than 90% recovery in toughness, and we expect that our approach will be applicable to other brittle materials systems (including ceramics and glasses).

Microvascular Systems
This new healing concept for repeated healing of damage is modeled after vascular networks in nature. To demonstrate the use of microvascular networks for autonomic healing of structural damage, we explore a microvascular coating/substrate architecture that mimics human skin. Skin, which serves as a protective barrier, is made up of many layers of tissue and vessels that work together to repair damage.

SF fans have been on the watch for these materials since this 1951 story: Asteroid of Fear, by sf great Raymond Z. Gallun. Consider this unique plastic that can repair itself:

But the wide roof was all the way up, now—intact. It made a great, squarish bubble, the skin of which [a 'transparent, wire-strengthened plastic '] was specially treated to stop the hard and dangerous part of the ultra-violet rays of the sun, and also the lethal portion of the cosmic rays. It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures that grain-of-sand-sized meteors might make.
(Read more about self-healing plastic)

Also, J.G. Ballard described a bendable, self-healing material in his 1962 short story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista. Ballard wrote about plastex, a unique building material.

Via Autonomous Materials Systems

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Related News Stories - (" Material ")

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